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engage International Conference 2012


Landing Place: the local in the international

Venues across Cardiff

6 & 7 November, fringe events on 5 November


"A really enriching experience ... it is important in the current climate to bring people together to discuss these issues and to strengthen the sector. Thank you!"

2012 engage/enquire International Conference participant




Online activity

Picture gallery

Programme and resources


Partners and supporters 


The development of artists' participatory practices and the importance of identity in art has generated a sense that international projects can grow from local communities. Yet the character, expense and logistics of international projects can also be seen to compete with grassroots activity.

"Everybody comes from someplace ... Some of the best regional art is made by transients who bring fresh eyes to the place where they have landed ... If content is considered the prime component of art, and lived experience is seen as a prime material, then regionalism is not a limitation but an advantage, a welcome base that need not exclude outside influences but sifts them through a local filter."

Lucy Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Sense of Place in a Multicentered Society

Gallery educators are often the 'glue' in the relationships that develop between artists and audiences, and can have a key curatorial role in local/international projects.

The conference explored some key issues:

  • How does participation influence the presentation and interpretation of the international?
  • How do 'grassroots' organisations operate internationally?
  • How can local participants have genuine opportunities to engage with artists who are 'passing through'?
  • How do the artists presenting work internationally feel about how it relates to their practice 'at home'?
  • Can international projects and relationships be developed without big budgets? Can they be created in ways that protect or support the natural environment? What part does digital technology play?
  • Do projects which express 'community', 'region', 'national' and 'international' become legible in small devolved regions and nations, and in exchanges between localities and regions?
  • What makes practice global or local? Is differentiating between them productive?
  • How are terms defined? Is 'the local' seen by the outsider, experienced by the resident, or a hybrid of the two?

"The conference has helped me to assess where I am as an artist and helped me to focus on my future potential and development."

2012 engage International Conference participant


Autumn 2012 saw a host of contemporary visual arts activity in Cardiff. Wales' arts scene is flourishing, with initiatives challenging assumptions and building relationships nationally and internationally. Across the UK, policy requires a fresh view of how grassroots activity creates a dynamic relationship between the international and the local. In the wider international scene, practice is taking on participation and engagement in a host of locally specific ways.

The conference took place against the backdrop of the 5th Artes Mundi Prize and exhibition. There was also a season of significant visual arts projects in Cardiff in which international work featured in projects that grew from grassroots organisations.


"It was fantastic to meet so many other organisations and I made some new connections with artists and staff from other galleries."

2012 engage/enquire International Conference participant

Artist, writer and educator Felicity Allen asked what globalisation means for gallery education, and how the role of gallery education can mature within the institution

Sara Annwyl, artist, Donnalee Downe, curator of 'This Town Is Small', Charlottetown, Canada, artist and curator Nia Metcalfe, with facilitator Lisa Edgar, Head of Education at Ffotogallery, discussed the particular challenges and opportunities presented by exhibiting and making work outside a gallery

Artist David Blandy and artist and curator Gordon Dalton presented 'Locws International', a project which combines long-term commissioning and biennial site-specific projects in Swansea

Artist Sonia Boyce reflected on the nature of 'archiving the self' through discussion of projects in Liverpool and the Caribbean

Aileen Burns & Johan Lundh, co-Directors of CCA Derry-Londonderry, presented their project to create a new space for the city during its time as City of Culture

Artist, educator and organiser Johnny Gailey explored words, terms and labels in participatory activity with delegates

Jeanine Griffin, Manager of the Art Sheffield festivals & freelance curator/project manager and Sean Edwards, artist, discussed connecting with international activity in studios, networks and community-level artist and curator development in a session facilitated by Gill Nicol, independent arts consultant

Owen Griffiths, artist and curator of the 'Vetch Veg' project, Swansea, talked about grassroots activity as actuality and as metaphor

Artists Natasha Kidd and Jo Addison, with Effie Coe, discussed collaborating with Tate Modern to create locally produced artists' learning resources for international touring shows

Karen MacKinnon, exhibitions curator, Glynn Vivian, Swansea presented 'Let's see what happens...' a long-term project nurturing relationships between artists in Swansea and China, and on other international projects in the context of Swansea's rich local art scene

ARTIST ROOMS Learning Coordinator Christopher Ganley, Marie Neeson, Education / Audience Development Manager at mima, Middlesbrough and Kate Davies, Cultural Development Coordinator at the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock, discussed engaging young people in work by international artists

Ffion Rhys, artist and Project Coordinator, Artes Mundi, Alice Briggs, artist curator, with Frances Stacey and Alexander Millar discussed the impact of working as gallery guides and interpreters on international projects such as the Venice Biennale and Artes Mundi on their subsequent careers

Laurie Peake presented Jeanne Van Heeswijk's '2Up2Down' project at the Liverpool Biennial

Dr. Veronica Sekules, Deputy Director and Head of Education and Research at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia chaired the opening panel discussion, 'The Local in the International - the International in the Local'

Kate Self, Learning Co-ordinator, Ikon, Laura Wilson, Education and Off-site Organiser, Chisenhale Gallery and artist Sarah Browne discussed collaborating on recent young people's programmes in the Midlands, London and Canada

Oliver Sumner, freelance consultant, and Samar Maakaron, artist and designer, Delta Arts gave an insight into 'Golden Threads', a series of artist-to-artist research fellowships in the UK, Denmark and Lebanon

Artist Bedwyr Williams presented Crewe, its part in my downfall, a slide talk about the special adjustment necessary between his home - a small village in North Wales - and frequent visits to London and overseas destinations

There was an exclusive screening of Backbench (2010) by Ergin Cavusoglu, a video work about debate at international art events, made for manifesta 2010

'Digital postcards' were sent to the conference by international contributors:

Charles Esche, Director of Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands

François Matarasso, writer and researcher

Doug Worts, culture and sustainability specialist and consultant, Toronto, Canada

Fringe visits to the Artes Mundi exhibition and other Cardiff projects at g39, Chapter and Ffotogallery provided a rich ancillary programme as part of Cardiff Contemporary.

Conference Programmer: Mike Tooby

Online activity

As in previous years, Axisweb supported two delegates to blog from the event and worked with engage to facilitate dialogue around the theme, at www.axisweb.org/webzine/engage12

Read Alicia Bruce's iphone photo blog 

Read Eleanor Shipman's conference blog 

There was a wealth of activity on social networks around the event. You can see an archive of social media activity on Storify.


engage would like to thank the following volunteers whose practical support enabled the event to happen:

Marja Virtanen, engage Intern

Adam Keay

Anita Nathwani

Anne-Mie Melis

Caroline Wendling

Fiona Campbell

Freya Dooley

Georgia Hall

Honor Pedican

Jen Locke

Rebecca Thomas

Roshi Naidoo

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Partners and supporters:

Axisweb      Culture colony


Toilet humour

Toilet humour at the engage Conference. Joceline Howe by Alicia Bruce, iphone picture.

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